Apple Seeds 5G? Seeks 'Multi-Gigabit' Chip Designer

Dan Jones
11/30/2016

Apple appears to be getting ready to start developing devices using high-speed, high-frequency wireless chips, ahead of the arrival of next-generation 5G mobile networks in 2020.

The smartphone powerhouse is currently advertising for a MM/Wave IC Design Engineer and a MM/Wave IC Layout Designer. Both these candidates would have a role in developing and delivering millimeter wave (mmWave) wireless chips that are at the heart of multi-gigabit wireless technologies such as 5G and high-speed home wireless technology, like 60GHz WiGig. (See The Many Faces of 5G and 60GHz: A Frequency to Watch.)

High-speed mobile 5G services are expected to launch initially in the US around 2020, using 28GHz near-millimeter wave technology. [Ed note: Technically, the millimeter wave frequencies are classified as between 30GHz and 300GHz in the US.] (See Ready, Set, Go! FCC Votes for First 5G Spectrum.)

So why would Apple be concerned about a technology that is at least three years away and unlikely to be ubiquitous in the US for a long time? For one thing, 5G will make video transfers over the air much faster, allowing an HD movie to be downloaded in seconds, rather than streaming and stuttering over a 4G connection.

It will also open up new applications such as wireless virtual and augmented reality apps. The success of Pokemon Go has already shown there is a consumer hunger for such games -- and probably other applications -- in a mobile format. That's something Apple would be foolish to ignore. (See Pokémon Go Is Just the Beginning: Wait Until VR's on 5G!.)


For all the latest news on 5G, visit the 5G site here on Light Reading.


On the practical side, it takes a long to time to design and verify this niche -- until now -- technology, especially as the 28GHz radios and antennas have not been used much in small mobile or wireless devices before. In its design engineer ad, Apple says it is planning to get such devices into the hands of "hundreds of millions of customers." (see Islands in the Stream: Don't Expect Full mmWave 5G Coverage in US, Says Nokia.)

(On a side note, millimeter wave engineers used to be restricted to satellite and backhaul radio jobs. Now it seems that everyone and their dog is looking for some high-band talent.)

Oh, by the way, I ran the job ads past Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown, who agreed that they could relate to 5G but might also apply to 60GHz WiGig home wireless technology.

In this instance, I think the large device volumes referenced suggest a consumer wireless gadget rather than a super-fast home hotspot. And Apple is also currently advertising for wireless interns to research multiple aspects of 5G.

What do you think? Add your comments to the message boards below.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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danielcawrey
danielcawrey
12/1/2016 | 4:05:26 PM
Re: In fact, Apple is getting out of the home router biz anyway.
This has to be all about virtual reality. It's been rumored Apple is working on VR, and it makes sense because they already have a device that could potentially support it - the iPhone. Mobile phones paired with headsets are the future of VR if you ask me - people aren't going to attach a clunky device to a PC. 
DanJones
DanJones
12/1/2016 | 8:12:38 AM
Re: Good to be ahead of the game
Well Samsung is already quite a way down the path: 

 

http://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/samsung-gets-ready-to-shrink-5g-antennas-and-chipsets/d/d-id/724559
DanJones
DanJones
12/1/2016 | 8:08:20 AM
Re: Good to be ahead of the game
If, as the ads suggest, they're developing baseband and RF mmWave designs then they're probably looking at least an 18 month design cycle.
Michelle
Michelle
11/30/2016 | 11:09:10 PM
Re: Good to be ahead of the game
@Joe agreed -- better to build a demand for it now, before everyone else is providing the same
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
11/30/2016 | 8:47:59 PM
Re: In fact, Apple is getting out of the home router biz anyway.
@DanJones: Too bad.  It would have been interesting (and probably quite convenient) to see a router/Apple TV hybrid device.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
11/30/2016 | 8:46:59 PM
Good to be ahead of the game
Better to start now -- well before actual gigabit speed demand comes to the consumer -- than wait until 2019 or 2020 or so when we darn well EXPECT it!
DanJones
DanJones
11/30/2016 | 12:54:47 PM
In fact, Apple is getting out of the home router biz anyway.
In fact, Apple is getting out of the WiFi router/home router business it appears anyway.